One response to postings below re women in Christian leadership alerted me to (a) the possibility that 'equal but different' is a fairer description of the 'complementarian' approach than 'equal but subordinate', and (b) an organisation based in Sydney called 'Equal But Different'.
A perusal of Equal But Different's website certainly makes interesting reading. It appears to be as clear, as concise and as fair a statement of the so-called 'complementarian' position on men and women in marriage and in church ministry as one might find anywhere.
On the one hand I am struck by the last clause of its statement of faith:
"11. that we unconditionally reject the use of God’s purposes for marriage as an excuse for violence against women, whether physical, emotional or spiritual."
To me that is a bit of a red flag about the complementarian position: does a true biblical understanding of men and women require this kind of health warning? Should not the presence of such a statement flag an urgent need to re-examine what the Bible says? The goodness of marriage as an ordinance of creation given by God, when expressed as a theological position of the church, should not require such a clause. Well, that's what I think, but many notable teachers in North America, Sydney, and England seem comfortable with a position that requires a clause 11.
On the other hand I am struck by the incongruence of the complementarian approach being acclaimed as 'biblical' while intruding into its statement of belief words and phrases which do not come from the Bible.
Consider clause 9:
"9. that men are called to loving, self-denying, humble leadership, and women to intelligent, willing submission within marriage;"
You may read your Bible a thousand times but you will not see submission in marriage qualified by the word 'intelligent'. I presume this is a get out of jail card with respect to the reality of our culture which looks askance at any position in relation to marriage which implied a blind, unquestioning submission. Now recognising the reality of present day culture is a good thing. It's just that the complementarian approach can be very critical of the egalitarian approach on the grounds of the latter, allegedly, being more driven by current culture than by the Bible.
The good news here is that acceptance of the notion of 'intelligent, willing submission' opens the possibility of fruitful dialogue between the two positions. 'Intelligent, willing submission' speaks to me of a relationship in which there is communication, discussion, and negotiation - all elements of the mutuality in marriage which is an important emphasis of the egalitarian approach.
Then there is Clause 10 to consider, but I give it here with preceding clauses which build up to this clause:
"6. that God calls everyone, female and male, to a life of whole-hearted service to Him, and of self-sacrificial ministry to His people and to the world in whatever context He places them;
7. that both men and women are to use their gifts and exercise ministry in a joyful and committed way;
8. that God’s purposes for humanity include complementary relationships between the genders;
9. that men are called to loving, self-denying, humble leadership, and women to intelligent, willing submission within marriage;
10. that within the church, this complementarity is expressed through suitably gifted and appointed men assuming responsibility for authoritative teaching and pastoral oversight;"
Again, you may read your Bible a thousand times but you will not find any statement which straightforwardly makes the connection between complementariness in marriage and complementariness in church ministry. Note carefully that this observation does not make clause 10 invalid in itself. Clause 10 may be true and the final word on the matter but if this is so, then it is because its truth as a theological reflection on biblical material is recognised by the church. But Clause 10 is not a straightforward 'biblical' statement. It is a conclusion reached through the process of theological reflection on the Bible. Such theological reflection is, however, always a matter of contestability. That is, it is not the conclusion all readers of the Bible will reach. It ought not to be described in a manner which implies it is the only standard for 'biblical relationships'.
Here also is good news for the dialogue (and debate) between the complementarian and egalitarian positions. If both can recognise and respect each position as beginning with the Bible but drawing different conclusions, rather than acclaiming one position as 'biblical' and the other as not (as, for example, a notable exponent of complementarianism, Wayne Grudem is wont to do), then it is possible that the process by which each position reaches its conclusions could be brought into discussion for mutual reflection and examination. By 'process' here I mean the logical steps each argument takes on the way from the text of the Bible to the theological conclusions reached. All too often as Christians we do not consider these details and thus miss important matters which affect the positions we reach and the manner in which we make judgements about 'the other side'.
In this case I would be intrigued to hear more about the introduction of the word 'intelligent' and the reasoning why 'complementariness' in marriage also applies to church leadership. I am sure 'complementarians' would like to know more about the reasoning why 'egalitarians' would propose 'Equal, Different, Free to Serve as Called and Equipped' as a biblically-based alternative to 'Equal but Different'.